Posts Tagged ‘genealogy conference’

Palaeography – Understanding Old Handwriting

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Wills and Some Useful Information They Can Contain

Wills and Some Useful Information They Can Contain

Always keep in mind that Wills can be a useful place to look for information when researching family history. To look at the original wills you need to visit a Record Office, and you usually [at least you do in the UK] have to order them to be brought out of storage. Always do your homework before you go, have your list sorted out so that you can fill out the request slips straight away and you will not waste your time. By that I am talking about the time that you have booked to be in the Record Office, with the use of a fiche or film reader.

Because of the fragility of the old wills, you will only be allowed to write in pencil, and you must always, always be very careful in your handling of the wills – they are irreplaceable.

old handwriting

In the UK you will find that all the old wills come bound between two hard covers with fabric ties. They can be about a foot thick sometimes and very heavy, but the contents are numbered so its easy to find the one you want.

I mentioned wills being useful and they can be because of the people who are mentioned there. Sometimes family members are mentioned, perhaps by their married names, and also you could learn the names of children who you didn’t know about. You also learn by the bequests just how much property your ancestor owned. The wills can be a big help when trying to locate ancestors.


A good part of my research was connected with farming families in a rural area of Lincolnshire in the UK. When there is land involved, it is usually divided up between family members, plus they usually bequeathed the animals, the hay, dairy equipment and all sorts of farming equipment.

I was always pleased to see an inventory attached to the will because this showed me what the person had in his house. You would find one person inheriting the pewter from the parlour say, somebody else would be getting the beds, bedding and bed furniture [yes, they even left their bedding!!]. Another person would inherit all that was in the hall [what we would probably describe as a dining room now], the table and chairs, or sometimes benches. Then somebody else would be getting all that was in the dairy. Plus of course there is always the family home and any money.

Usually debts and monies owed to the deceased are mentioned in the will, with directions as to how they should be handled.

Men especially seemed to leave their clothing, one of my ancestors left one son his best hat and whip, another got his boots, somebody else got his clothing.

Women did leave wills sometimes, but most often you would find that it was the men.

One difficulty with the wills from the 1500’s and 1600’s would be the writing style. Elizabethan English and what was known as ‘Secretary Hand’ were the styles usually found. At first sight you think to yourself that you will never be able to decipher any of it, but don’t panic, take it slowly. The beginning of the wills usually follow a set format, you will get the persons name, where they lived and the date and they would talk about committing their body to God etc.etc. Most often they specify the place they want to be buried, and then come the bequests.

There are books available which will help you to understand the old English writing, some of the letters were formed differently in the ‘good old days’. When you have looked at a number of the old wills in your bid to trace your family history, you become more able to make out words. Almost always family names seem to jump out and hit you in the eye!

Some of course could even be in Latin, and this can be a bit daunting. You soon learn the word for son [filius] and daughter [fillia] etc. It’s all a matter of learning as you go.

Even the names of the executors can be useful, they may be members of the deceased’s family, or in-laws. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can often find that a son-in-law is called ‘son’. This can throw you off a little, but when you see the surname you realize that it means in-law.

Apart from the information to be gleaned from the will, you get a rather odd sensation when you realize that your ancestor from all that time ago, actually handled the document and signed their name to it. very strange but a good feeling, a sort of contact with the deceased.

There will be two workshops on palaeography at the forthcoming Open the Door International Family History Conference. One will be part of the Society of Genealogists sponsored workshops and the otehr a more advanced skills workshop. Whatever your level of expertise, you will beneift from attending at least one of tehse workshops. So much choice at the genealogy conference.

By Jean Carrick

Jean is passionate about family history and genealogy and has a blog related to these topics. If you would like to take a look at her blog and maybe ask a question, she will do her utmost to give you a solution to any problem you may have. Click here

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Free Genealogy Database: A Great Way to Find Out About Your Ancestors

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Today, more and more people are now considering finding out about their family’s past. Besides, this kind of activity is an activity that the whole family can enjoy. Finding out about your  will hold a lot of mysteries and surprises. For example, in politics, genealogists have found that President George W. Bush is a very distant cousin of his political rival, John Kerry. It’s quite a surprise and quite funny when you think about it; two cousins battling it out to get the most powerful position in the United States of America.

As you can see, you will find out a lot of interesting and usually surprising things if you research about your family’s genealogy. However, you also have to consider that hiring genealogists can be very expensive and will take a lot of time to provide you with a decent family tree that will contain information about your family’s relatives.

However, the internet today is a very useful and a much cheaper way to find out about your family’s genealogy. In fact, there are some genealogy websites that offer their services for free. All you need to do is type in your complete name, your birth date, and also the country where you live in and click on search. You will find out about your family tree almost instantly. However, free genealogy database websites are sometimes unreliable and produce inaccurate results. You have to consider that it takes a lot of work to get a single family database done. Imagine building millions of family database. It’s quite a difficult task even for a seasoned genealogist.

However, if you are just starting out finding about your family’s genealogy, free genealogy database websites are the websites you should first visit. Here, you will obtain different kinds of information about your family where you can later use for a more comprehensive and accurate search. You will also save money on obtaining important documents, such as birth, death, marriage, and immigration records.

free genealogy

It is important to consider that free genealogy database search are basic and will only give you limited information about certain people whom you are related with. If you want a more comprehensive search, you should prepare paying for it as information can be hard to obtain.

When you are already progressing on your search in the free genealogy database website and encountered a dead end, you can search further by looking at public records, and looking at old newspaper obituaries.

These are some of the things you have to consider when using a free genealogy database. Always remember that the information usually provide in free genealogy database websites are basic. Once you encountered a dead end on your quest for your family’s genealogy, you should consider taking it one step further by either looking at the public library or by hiring an expert and reputable genealogist to do the work for you. Provide your genealogist with all the documents you accumulated during your preliminary search and inform them on how far back you want to search. They will know all about documents and they will know where to search for it.


Of course you have to know where the websites are located and this is difficult to do without the knowledge of experts and other family historians. At the  forthcoming International Genealogy Conference to be held in Nottingham there will be many family historians with expert genealogical knowledge as well as speakers from the Society of Genealogists who will be lecturing on where to find free genealogy on the Internet

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George Redmonds

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

George Redmonds to speak at Genealogical Conference

George Redmonds is the author of numerous books on name topics including Surnames and Genealogy, Christian Names in Local and Family History and Names and History. In 2001 he presented the BBC Radio 4 series Surnames, Genes and Genealogy.

George is considered by many family historians to be one of the foremost experts on Yorkshire surnames and has often spoken at family history conferences particularly on one-name studies.

Names of course are everywhere and not just as surnames. George has investigated how our names are acquired and how through time they have changed. Names are a part of our personal histories, defining who we are today and just who our ancestors were and often where they lived or what they did. To understand them we need to look beyond etymologies and examine the name in its historic and chronological context.


George will be speaking on the final day of the International Family History Conference on "Your Surname is Unique" and will be a fascinating insight into the world of surname studies.  Surname studies are of course vital to one-name studies as well as to family historians and genealogists. The conference will be an ideal opportunity to listen to George and other celebrity speakers for what is an incredible price. For a list of all the speakers at the  International Family History Conference 

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The Historic Heraldic Dering Roll

Friday, January 16th, 2009

This week I have been fortunate enough to attend a private view of the heraldic Dering Roll. This valuable document  was until recently in private hands when it was sold to an overseas buyer at auction for £192,500. But under current legislation export was held up to see if the British Library could raise the money to keep the historic roll in England. The Halsted Trust along with many other organisations and individuals offered a contribution and the auction price was raised.

The Dering Roll is a very important document in heraldry. It is the oldest surviving roll of arms dating from around 1275 and a vital document for students of the knighthood of medieval England. It contains the heraldic coats of arms of 324 shields which represents about a quarter of the English baronage during the reign of King Edward 1.

Each shield has the name of the knight that it represents except for five shields wh ere the name was either omitted or erased.

The document is no doubt the work of a specialist herald and as it mainly shows the heraldry of knights from Sussex and Kent was probably made in the south east of England. Those that have studied the document have determined that it is a list of the knights owing feudal service to the Constable of Dover Castle and was most likely therefore commissioned by Stephen of Penchester who was the Constable at that time.

The roll is called the Dering Roll after Sir Edward Dering of Pluckley in Kent who acquired it during the early part of the 17th Century and then proceeded to alter the document for his own purposes! The sixty-first shield on the roll bore the heraldic coat of arms of Nicholas de Crioll and this has been carefully changed and the arms of a fictitious Richard fitz Dering inserted! Fortunately a number of copies had been made before this date showing the original.

The Roll was in the estate of Sir Anthony Wagner,Garter Principal King of Arms (died 1995) and was sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 and subsequently saved for the nation by public donation.

It was quite fascinating to see this ancient document close up without glass and to be able to study it first hand and once again reiterates the importance of Heraldry to genealogists in family history.

Coat of arms

There will be a workshop on Heraldry at the forthcoming 2009 International Family History Conference in Nottingham, England.

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Why attend a family history conference?

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Ever since I can remember, I have always had an interest in family history and like most people, a life event over twenty years ago acted as the catalyst for me to research my genealogy. Not having any experience as a genealogist, I started by reading a book and joining a family history society. My interest in Kent meant that although living in Sussex, I joined KFHS. It wasn’t long before I realised that there was very few Kent resources available locally and subsequently I joined the Society of Genealogists. Of course by now I thought I knew it all and it wasn’t long after that I attended my first family history conference to find out how much I didn’t know! That genealogical conference was in fact  organised by the Guild of One-Name Studies at the Florence Boot Hall at Nottingham. Since then I have been to virtually every conference I can, as I believe family history conferences are far the best source of learning about new resources and listening to great family and local history lectures by expert lectures and speakers. It is also a great way of meeting new friends interested in the same hobby, in fact it has been known for my bar bill to be more than the cost of the conference!

Every two to three years in England, there is held an International Family History Conference and this is happening in 2009. Instead of just a weekend it is to be held over four complete days and has as its theme “Open the Door and Here are the People” which makes it worthwhile for those whose ancestors emigrated from the British Isles to attend. Not only is it financially viable but it will also have many lectures talking about the people of the British Isles from many venerable Institutions as well as lectures and workshops on Heraldry and Palaeography. See the conference program at

Financially viable? In England we do conferences different than in most other English speaking conferences and this International Family History Conference will be no different! It is a full residential course with a single fee inclusive of all lectures and workshops, three nights accommodation in en-suite accommodation, all meals from lunch on the Friday up to and inclusive of lunch on the Monday as well as all non-alcoholic refreshments. ALL this for the early bird rate of £329 and with the dollar being so strong it means this will cost UNDER $500 inclusive of tax. There has never been a better time to attend a conference. So book your flights this week!!

This International Family History Conference is being held this year (2009) from Friday 28th August till Monday 31st August (a holiday weekend in England) in Nottingham  at the East Midlands Conference Centre.

Don’t forget you can always extend your stay both in Nottingham where we can offer en-suite bed and breakfast accommodation at £35 per night and there are plenty of family historians who offer similar facilities close to most record offices. You could of course spend time in London at the Society of Genealogists or any of the other London Archives, so why not make it a once in a lifetime vacation.

With between 4 and 5 lectures to chose from each session, I find the idea of this genealogical conference quite exciting and am looking forward to it with great expectations –  not least the concept of meeting old and making new friends – so “See you there!”

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